When My Life Becomes an Emotional Cup


Saturday I finished reading “When People are Big and God is small” by Dr. Ed Welch to prepare for discipleship sessions in St. Vincent on dealing with anxiety.  While this book began as a foundation for teaching material, the Lord used it to convict my own heart, which is surprising since this is the second time I read it 🙂

One of the most convicting thoughts that came from the reading was I viewed myself as someone who had a constant psychological need for love and acceptance.  Welch describes it as being a psychological cup of needs.

Pieced together, a popular view of a person looks like this

  1. Our basic shape is that of a cup that holds psychic needs
  2. These tend to cluster around the basic needs of love and significance
  3. When these needs are not met we begin to feel empty
  4. We must be careful who fills these needs…we can fill it with people, or we can fill it with Christ (“When People are Big and God is small” pg.136, par.4)

In my case the cup needed to be filled with a feeling of success or significance.  While this isn’t necessary filled with the love of people (though sometimes it was) I did fill it with.

  1. Any kind of ministry activity…for years in my opinion if I wasn’t busy all day then God wasn’t using me
  2. The acceptance of others through my online communication…likes, comments, or blog views showed me I was being successful
  3. Awesome ministries stories…The kind that look just awesome in blogs or prayer letters
  4. And being able to rip through my “daily to-do list”

However there were days when I couldn’t find anything witty to say on Facebook or the blog, there wasn’t much real ministry going on, or I just didn’t have the motivation to get things done.  This always resulted in a mad dash to find something….anything….that could fill my psychological cup.

The biggest problem with viewing ourselves as cups is 95% of the time we fill it with other people like friends, family, or spouses. So instead of relationships being about ministry, they are about filling our need to feel accepted.  In extreme cases this means demanding love or encouragement of others.

Dr. Welch explains that demand for love this way;  “Can you hear it?  The love cup lives. Fill me with ______________, then I will be happy.  We tend to see ourselves as people who need something from somebody if we are going to change.” (When People are Big and God is small” pg.136, par.3)

This strong desire and demand for the love of others often leads to habits that make them love us so our psychological cups can be filled.

As a child I used to have pity-parties which involved saying I can’t do anything or calling myself worthless.  Though I didn’t know it at the time this was a way of saying my psychological cup was low and MAKING SOMEONE FILL IT.  Thankfully today I no longer wallow in self-pity but have created more subtle ways of making people fill my cup…the thing is they are still filling it.  And each time I rely on other people to meet my psychological needs I become more addicted to their love.

The greatest problem with this addiction is it makes ministry almost impossible.  I mean seriously how can I put my heart into the lives of others while at the same time relying on them to fill my cup.  Eventually the day will come when two people with dangerously low cups are trying to use on another, and that always ends in disaster.

Should I feel loved and accepted by people?  Of course!  But God has placed family and friends in my life for a much greater purpose than to fill my cup.

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